Is Your Church Ready to
The paperwork sits in a large pile on the kitchen counter. Hospital bills, death certificates, credit card bills, the young widow/widower stares at the pile with feelings of helplessness.
Widows/Widowers are forced into survival mode when their spouse dies. Most will not request help even though they are drowning in a sea of paperwork and household responsibilities. The passing offers, "Give me a call if you need anything," go unheeded. Perhaps widows/widowers would call for help, if only they knew what they really needed.
Is your church ready to meet the challenge? With little forewarning, is your congregation ready to step in and assist widows/widowers in your church family? Most churches approach helping widows/widowers with a wait and see attitude. A general offer of help is given, and if the widow/widower requests help, an attempt is made at helping, otherwise it is assumed that they do not need your assistance. Unfortunately the reality is, widows/widowers typically will not ask for help, and when they do the offers that were once given seem to have vanished.
Meeting the Challenge
Organization is the key to your church's effectiveness in helping widows/widowers. Having a well organized team is not only more effective in meeting the needs, but helps your congregation understand what widows/widowers needs are.
Using the gifts that the Lord has given your church body, form teams of individuals who can use their talents to step in at a moments notice to help widows/widowers. Do not wait for the widows/widowers in your church to request your help. Preparedness team members should approach widows/widowers with specific offers of help and explain the church's desire to honor them by assisting them in practical ways.
Widows are not the only ones who need honest, confidential, and godly advice regarding their finances, widowers frequently need assistance as well. Financial issues can become very complicated upon the death of a spouse and coupled with grief, they can easily feel overwhelming. The preparedness team member you choose to help widows/widowers in your church must have shown financial responsibility in his own home and business as well as being an individual with an impeccable reputation for not only confidentiality, but wise counsel. If such an individual is not available in your church, offer to pay for the services of a trustworthy CPA in your community or organizations such as Crown Ministries. Having a preparedness team member who has familiarized themselves with Social Security information is helpful.
Many widows have little understanding how to maintain their home. They may have general ideas, but not specific information regarding how to prevent unwanted problems. When problems arise, they have no idea of who to call and are vulnerable to bad situations that arise from calling the wrong person. At the most difficult point in their life, grieving the loss of a spouse, having to find someone to fix a broken toilet, can be emotionally taxing, not to mention difficult if finances are an additional issue. Choose men for the preparedness team who have shown good stewardship in maintaining their own homes. Make the offer to evaluate the widow's home in order to make a list of maintenance issues. To the best of the church's ability seek to help the widow to address those issues. It may not be practical for someone to mow the widow's lawn over the next 10 years, but perhaps a plan can be made for men to do the job until her young son is old enough for the men to train him to take over the task.
Widowers are frequently at a loss in the area of cooking and household chores that need to be done. If there are children in the home, all of the responsibility now falls on his shoulders. In addition to caring for his children and working, he must cook food, do laundry and keep a tidy house. Unfortunately after the funeral most churches no longer help by bringing food to the widower, he is left on his own to figure out how to feed his family. Older women who no longer have the responsibility of children at home are typically great sources of advice and help in this area. Although occasionally cooking a meal for the widower is great, in addition helping him learn how to make simple healthy meals, is of great value. Helpful hints for laundry and housekeeping are appreciated as well. An occasional team of women coming in to help clean is typically met with great relief on the part of a widower. Organizing children's clothing and cleaning closets are difficult to do when you are a widower.
What happens when the young widow/widower becomes ill? Many widows/widowers do not have family support locally and are left alone without anyone to step in and help out. They must rely on finding friends who can baby-sit for them in emergency situations. Widows and widowers who must work, frequently miss work to take care of a sick child, or take them to the doctor. Although a parent's desire is to be with their sick child it adds financial stress and job security concerns if it happens too frequently. Young widows/widowers have no choice but to take all their children with them to an emergency room during the middle of the night if one of their children has a medical emergency. In the event they are ill or need routine medical care, they either have to take the children into the examination room with them, or leave them unattended in the waiting area. A team of reliable individuals willing to help widows/widowers in this area is a necessity.
Widows raising children alone face challenges helping their sons become young men. There are things taught by fathers that are difficult or impossible for mothers to teach their sons. Men willing to mentor widow's sons are rare and so badly needed. Widowers facing teaching their daughters to be young ladies feel helpless and inadequate to deal with issues that arise. Godly women who can stand in the gap are priceless to a widower in need. Mentors willing to step in and help teach young men and women in place of their parent who has died, must be reliable and trustworthy. When promises made to a child are not fulfilled, they suffer one more loss. Cancellations are sometimes necessary, but even when necessary for good reason cause children to feel disappointed and abandoned.